Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Starving for Help - Understanding the warning signs of an eating disorder written by: Dwight Bain

Starving to death is common in third world countries because they don’t have enough food to eat. Starving for help is a different yet equally serious problem because it isn’t about getting enough food to feed the physical body, rather, it’s about restricting food for the purposes of controlling body image. Starving for help is fueled by the struggle over 80% of American women experience daily, because that’s how many women are dissatisfied with their appearance or have deep insecurities their weight; which often can lead to developing an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. In the United States eating disorders have become serious health problems impacting almost 10 million women and over a million men according to research from the National Eating Disorders Association, yet the overwhelming majority of people struggling in this area feel too ashamed to ask anyone for help so they suffer alone in silence.
Consider how often we hear warnings about the risk factors from things like driving without a safety belt, smoking, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol or being victimized in an abusive or violent relationship; because these serious issues are openly discussed from beauty shops to Bible study groups. However, consider how little we hear on the very real dangers of an eating disorder which can begin silently in any home at any time leading to devastating problems that impact an entire family and too often result in the tragic loss of life.
This special report is designed to help you or someone you love better understand an eating disorder and more importantly how to deal with key issues to help someone struggling alone in the darkness by bringing issues out into the light so others can come alongside to help you overcome this common, yet often crippling disorder. Keep track of the warning signs and symptoms you identify while reading this resource so you can be better informed and equipped to take positive action to change the areas you see that need attention, because you can’t fix an eating disorder alone.
FACT: The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is twelve times higher than the death rate of ALL other causes of death for females between fifteen to twenty-four years of age
FACT: 20% of women suffering with an eating disorder will die from health complications, many before they reach their thirtieth birthday
Can you think of any other life-threatening condition affecting young women that our culture remains so silent about? Eating disorders are rarely even whispered to be a common problem in our homes, schools, churches or communities, yet the research shows epidemic levels in every segment of society, especially among young women, with some girls beginning to struggle with acceptance about their body image as young as nine years old. These girls miss out on so many positive experiences throughout their teens and twenties because they are always hungry, always on a diet and rarely if ever feel accepted or valued for who they are because of the pressure to look and act a certain way to gain approval and attention, which sometimes are confused as a substitute for acceptance and affection. God designed our bodies to be the ‘skin’ that would house our ‘soul’ and bases our worth on who we are, not what we look like, however in today’s modern culture it seems that what you look like determines more about how people treat you than who you really are on the inside.
If you have college-age, (or younger), family members or friends there is a great likelihood that one or more of them are battling this secret condition, because 86% of people struggling with an eating disorder began the process before they reached the age of twenty. Sadly, once the battle begins it will last for a period of several years to often as long as fifteen years for the majority of those who are caught in the grip of anorexia and bulimia. Here are some other conclusions drawn from an extensive review of the clinical literature and published by the International Journal on Eating Disorders, (2003), to help you see the hidden health dangers from anorexia and bulimia.
40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15-19 years old.
Significant increase in incidence of anorexia from 1935 to 1989 especially among young women 15-24.
The incidence of bulimia in 10-39 year old women TRIPLED between 1988 and 1993.
Only one-third of people with anorexia in the community receive mental health care.
Only 6% of people with bulimia receive mental health care.
The majority of people with severe eating disorders do not receive adequate care.
Many colleges and even more high schools have extensive training programs to equip students in dealing with the very real health dangers associated with abusing substances like drugs and alcohol or participating in casual sex, yet schools and faith based organizations are almost silent on the dangers of eating disorders. When the topic does come up it seems to be more associated with a Hollywood celebrity in rehab than a common, yet secretive disorder likely hurting some young women you already know through school, work, church or in your neighborhood. To look at it from another perspective, consider how many times we have seen a whole community come together to search for one college co-ed feared to have been abducted or worse, while not realizing that this disorder slowly kills thousands of women every year right under the noses of the people closest to them who don’t even realize that they are dying inside.

v Extreme weight loss

v Extreme weight gain

v Fear of being fat

v Talks frequently about food, feeling, fat and the fantasy of a perfect body

v Constantly compares self to the thin models and actresses seen in magazines or TV

v Always seems to be eating or never seems to be eating

v Prefers to spend time alone and at home

v Strange eating rituals or behaviors

v Wears layers upon layers of clothes

v Always complaining of feeling cold and pale looking

v Excessive about exercise

v Dry and thinning hair

v Excessive food stains on clothing or in the car

v Excessive food wrappers in car, closet or under the bed

v Loss of menstrual cycle

v Always tries to be perfect

(Source: Deedra Hunter, LMHC
Certified Eating Disorder Specialist with the LifeWorks Group)

Sometimes when the topic of anorexia or bulimia comes up people act shocked that it could actually be a real problem or give insensitive feedback like ‘just get over it’ or ‘stop acting this way’ or ‘she just needs to eat something and she will be fine’ or the opposite ‘she just needs to lose a few pounds.’ Eating disorders aren’t something you can just get over with simplistic advice or a new diet because there are multiple factors driving this serious condition, including psychological, relational, cultural, medical and spiritual issues all intertwined and emeshed together, which is the biggest reason why you can’t successfully deal with an eating disorder by yourself.
The good news is that with the help of supportive and healthy people around you, you can win the battle over an eating disorder, but remember, it is still a battle that takes some time to overcome and can’t be fought alone. God knows the struggles you are facing, and I believe has already placed resources around you to help guide your path to find a way out of this confusing mixed up maze involving food, mood, frustration and motivation centered around the key faith issues that can become a safe shelter when we read about God’s love and acceptance of us through His message of hope in the Bible.
Personal Growth Exercise on Approval & Acceptance: Psalms 139 is one of the best places that you can read to really understand God’s great love for you- no matter what you are struggling with right now! I suggest that you take time to read Psalms 139 in the Bible, verse by verse and then personalize it to fit your name and situation, so that you are literally rewriting those verses penned by King David thousands of years ago into a very personal message from God to you in the middle of whatever you are facing right now. This journaling exercise has helped me so many times personally that I know it will be of encouragement to you today as well, so don’t delay- just try it!)
Remember that you aren’t alone, so stop for a minute and think about the many people or places where you can turn for support right now. This may include healthy people who have overcome an eating disorder in their past, or they may just be loving and supportive people like friends, family members, spouses, co-workers, support groups, Bible study groups, recovery programs, church programs, treatment centers, doctors, dieticians, nutritionists, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, trainers, and the list can go on and on depending on the complexity of symptoms you or a loved one may be facing.

Eating Disorder checklist for signs of Anorexia or Bulimia
—I hate how I look.
—I hate how I feel.
—I feel powerless.
—If I could control how I look, I would be happy.
—I obsessively weigh myself more than once a day.
—I obsessively think about food.
—I eat when I’m not hungry.
—I hide how much I eat.
—I hide how much I vomit.
—I hide how much I exercise.
—I hide how much I take laxatives and/or diuretics.
—I hide my true feelings.
—I avoid conflict at all costs.
—I avoid being around people because I feel fat.
—I have a hard time eating when other people are present.
—I have a hard time asking for help.
—I avoid letting people really know me.
—I feel a lot of guilt over my past.
—I feel a sense of shame about who I am.
—I feel a sense of low self-worth.
—I feel good because I’m a perfectionist.
—I wish I could just disappear.
—I wish I could stop my pain
If you answered yes to five or more of these factors you could have some of the serious signs that would indicate an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia and should seek a more complete evaluation from a qualified medical or psychological professional to protect your health
Some of these root causes are extremely powerful and complex, leading a person to the point of starving from the very thing God designed our bodies to need every day- food. Our bodies need food to survive, so understanding the connection between food and feelings can help move you from seeing food as the enemy to simply viewing it as the basic source of energy for our body to function as God designed. When you consider the millions of people struggling or suffering with an eating disorder, or the tens of millions of people close to them who don’t know what to do to help, gaining insight in this important area can bring relief and hope to someone you know who may be hurting, alone and afraid from not knowing what to do to escape this serious disorder to find the freedom and peace of feeling acceptance from who you really are on the inside, no matter what size body God designed for you to walk around in on the outside.
To learn more about helping someone struggling with an Eating Disorders check out:
Remuda Ranch- national faith based program to treat eating disorders & help for parents
National Eating Disorder Association, (NEDA) http://www.NationalEatingDisorders.org
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders http://www.anad.org/

The LifeWorks Group has a series of helpful resources on eating disorders, as well as numerous parenting resources and links from a Christian Counseling perspective to help you or a loved one- http://www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Dwight Bain Bio:Author, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Professional member of the National Speakers Association and Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. Access more life coaching strategies at DwightBain.com

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Have you ever lost your balance? You know, you are walking along, singing the few words you actually know from the song you just heard on the radio when, suddenly, a clever square of sidewalk instantly raises its corner, catches your shoe, and hurtles you forward, out of control! You desperately try to regain your equilibrium or, at least, try to catch yourself as you skid onto the unforgiving concrete. What is your first reaction? To check your wounds? To make sure your clothes are intact? No! You do what any conscientious American would do-----make sure nobody saw you! That response is quickly followed by looking back in disgust at that vindictive portion of sidewalk, which was obviously at fault!
Haven’t we all lost our balance at one time or another? We can all relate to that weird feeling we get in our stomachs, the fear of the unexpected, and the pain that can result. Most of us can also relate to the same feelings of fear and anxiety when life gets out of balance. We overspend one month and, consequently, don’t know how we’re going to pay our bills. We spend so much time at work that our spouse and kids have filed a “missing persons” report with the police. Or, we spend so much time with our family that we don’t do satisfactory work at our jobs. Really, each of you can plug in your own personal example at this point.
Can’t we all relate? We live in a world where technology allows us to get so much more done in a shorter period of time than ever before. Theoretically, this should free up our time to do things like spend quality time with our families, refocus on prayer and devotions, or just………well……..dare I say it……………..relax!?! Unfortunately, instead of balancing our time properly, we often fill up that extra time with more work, or more addictions, or more of the same things we were trying to get away from. This lack of balance is a serious issue in our culture. In fact, when balance is lost in MOST areas, it is a cause of concern:
A chemical imbalance can cause severe emotional and behavioral problems.When the insulin levels in your body lack balance, it can lead to diabetes or hypoglycemia. If a fireman loses his balance at the wrong time, the results can be deadly.
Balance is key to our emotional, relational, physical, and spiritual health. Since so many adults in our culture struggle to achieve balance in life, is it any wonder that our adolescents have the same problem? Balance in the life of a teenager is often the exception, rather than the rule. The adolescent years are primes targets for imbalance; hormones are kicking in, self-esteem is low, pressure rises, and teens are not prepared to balance all of life on their own. Allow me to make a list of the areas where I see a lack of balance in many adolescents:

1. Physically: The lack of physical health and well-being in our teenagers is alarming. Obesity is at an all-time high. Most teens do not eat healthily or in a balanced way. We are a culture that encourages teens to indulge in fast food, fried food, junk food, and processed food. On top of that, teens seem to be more sedentary than ever before. Instead of running and exercising outside until being forced to come in for dinner, many teens have little desire to leave the couch, where the hallowed X-BOX resides. It is appalling to me that many schools are removing gym class from the curriculum and replacing that with an on-line PE class. This would actually be hysterical to me if it weren’t so sad. Just think, one can sit at the computer and be prompted, “Go and run one mile”. So, the teen has the choice to go and run a mile and come back and report it to the computer OR he can play a few more video games, make a snack, and then report that they ran a mile…………all in the comfort of their Sponge Bob Squarepants pajamas. Which option do you think gets chosen most often?

2. Emotionally: So many adolescents today have trouble in finding the emotional balance to be self-disciplined in schoolwork, stay motivated in important areas of life, or maintain a positive outlook when life gets difficult. Some of these emotional struggles are the result of circumstances beyond the teens’ control. An unstable home life, divorce of parents, or sexual abuse cannot be blamed on the teen. However, overindulgence, bad choices in friends, and dangerous appetites for unhealthy thrills can also lead to emotional imbalance.

3. Intellectually: For most of us, school was not always our favorite place to be. We have all resisted efforts of teachers or parents to get us to work harder at homework or to read more on our own. However, in my experience as a counselor and public school teacher, the apathy towards learning and especially towards reading, right now, in our schools is scary to witness. The flippant attitude of many students towards the idea of dropping out of high school is alarming. Many teens today are definitely out of balance intellectually. Many would rather use their brain power on thinking of how to defy the teachers or administration instead of how to learn and grow as a person. This imbalance is particularly frightening as we look ahead to the near future, when these students will have to face the harsh reality of life. If this balance is not achieved, the teen will have a more difficult time adapting.

4. Relationally: The imbalance in this area for many teens is that relationships, oftentimes, are about 98% of their focus. This is also out of balance. Now, learning to develop healthy relationships is extremely important in the emotional and social development of every teen. However, with the additions of cell phones, email, and chat rooms, the development of relationships has become more distant and not always healthy. Meeting people online can be a fantastic way to meet wonderful people from all over the world. This method expands the horizons of the teen and exposes them to incredible cultures. Unfortunately, the internet is also a perfect place for anyone who wants to hide who they really are; sexual predators, emotionally disturbed individuals, and the violence-prone are all potential suitors and the internet allows for a great hiding place.
Also, the attitudes of adolescents towards casual sex continue to be an issue. Sex is promoted as a way to build a relationship instead of being portrayed as a natural expression of an already healthy marital relationship.
The main point here is that many teens are out of balance relationally because it is often the only thing they really focus on.

5. Spiritually: Many adolescents today are exposed to radically different views on what it means to be “spiritual”. One of the major philosophies being pushed on teens now is that any faith that teaches exclusivity (like Christianity) is wrong. The idea is that one’s beliefs in God should be based on each individual’s feelings about God. The problem is that this offers no anchor for what is true or false. Also, the feelings and emotions of adolescents change almost constantly; based on their moods or experiences. This means that, if they subscribe to this theory of faith, that God must change constantly; that right and wrong change constantly. Talk about imbalance! What an unstable spiritual world that many teens live in; a world full of questions but few answers.

The truth is that teens need assistance in achieving balance in their lives. They need parents who are strong enough to set healthy boundaries on how much time is spent in each of these areas. They need parents who are not afraid of facing the anger or wrath of their teen; parents who are willing to set limits because that is what is BEST for their teenager, even if it is nowhere near popular. Our teens desperately need adult mentors who are willing to model what it means to be a godly man or woman of balance.
Balance. It is a goal that is a mystery to many. However, it is essential to healthy living. Here are some tips in solving the “balance” mystery in the life of your teen:

1. Physical: Insist that your teen exercise regularly….even if it is only 30 minutes a day. This can relieve stress, burn calories, and assist them with mental focus. Also, try to replace the junk food in your house with healthy alternatives. Teens may resist at first but, once they get hungry, they’ll eat.

2. Emotionally:
Evaluate the relationships in your home. Is it a stable environment? If not, search for resources to improve the peacefulness of your home. If the problems are more severe, seek the help of a counselor or pastor who can help. If your teen seems emotionally out of balance, seek professional help.

3. Intellectually: Set boundaries around grades at school. Insist on a certain amount of time, daily, that your teen must focus on feeding their brains in healthy ways. It can be reading a book, writing in a journal, using educational software, or just having a healthy discussion with you about what they are learning at school. And remember, don’t just set boundaries; enforce them. If you don’t, your teen will quickly realize that your bark is worse than your bite.

4. Relationally: Encourage the healthy relationships in your teen’s life. Talk to them about their relationships and help them in the tough moments. However, set limits on phone use, internet use, and make sure your teen is focused on things other than relationships as well.

5. Spiritually: You cannot control what goes on between God and your teen. Each of us must deal with the Lord on our own. However, you can make sure that your teen is exposed to healthy spiritual environments and teachings. Insist that your teen attend church with you. After all, you make them attend school, don’t you? You don’t have to shove religion down their throats. Just make it clear that going to church is a requirement for the household. Tell your teen that what they do with this is up to them. Try to encourage them to join a healthy youth group. If possible, have family devotions or prayer time, other than at meals. Most of all, be a model for how important it is to have a relationship with Christ.

I know that your teenager will initially resist your efforts to bring balance to his/her life. Helping them to reorganize priorities will not be easy. If you need help, seek a professional who can come along beside you and give you strategies and support. Whatever it takes, work to bring balance into the life of your teen. Remember, a balanced teenager is more likely to become a balanced, healthy, productive adult. And, maybe………they won’t trip over so many sidewalks.